Army museum getting a fix-up


POSTED: Monday, May 17, 2010

Through the next 90 days, 220 Army reservists from mainland engineer units will be using their two weeks of annual training to work on a $725,000 renovation project at the U.S. Army Museum in Waikiki that will double existing gallery space at the Fort DeRussy facility.

Lt. Col. Michael Ferrill, project manager, said when restoration is finished in July, Battery Randolph's gun decks on the museum's second floor will look as they did when completed in 1911, but without the large coastal artillery guns.

The original gun parapets were razed during an attempt to demolish Battery Randolph in 1969. When originally built, Battery Randolph was defended on the makai side by the equivalent of 30 feet of thick fortified concrete walls.






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“;The parapets were capable of withstanding a direct hit from a 2,000-pound artillery shell,”; said Dorian Travers, museum curator. “;It's from behind these walls that the largest coastal defense guns in the entire Pacific, from California to the Philippines, hid the battery's two 14-inch guns on disappearing carriages which were capable of hurling its 1,600-pound projectiles up to 14 miles out to sea.”;

1st Lt. Tim Nelson, who is overseeing the project that began April 18, said the new construction will replicate the look of the original structure with 7,000 square feet for several new offices, a classroom and a storage area on the second floor.

Nelson, who has been in the Army for 21 years—the last 16 as a reservist—is a member of the 980th Engineer Battalion, whose headquarters is in Austin, Texas. The battalion is part of the 420th Engineer Brigade, headquartered in Bryan, Texas, which reports to the 416th Theater Engineer Command in Darien, Ill.

Nelson said there will be about 80 reservists in each of three rotations this summer. No Pacific Army Reserve engineer units will work on the project. However, a group of Seabees from Pearl Harbor helped in the early stages.

The Hawaiian Army Museum Society, a nonprofit organization, has contributed $1 million for the construction, restoration and creation of exhibits at the museum. In 1976 the Army designated Battery Randolph as the home of the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii.

Battery Randolph is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and is one of 16 coastal fortifications built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1906 and 1917 to protect Honolulu and Pearl harbors.

That distinction “;excites”; the soldiers working on the project, Nelson said yesterday.

“;They all know the history of the museum, Battery Randolph and Fort DeRussy.”;

The gun decks were built in 1911, but by the end of World War II, aircraft carriers made them obsolete. The giant guns, which were never fired, were cut up and sold for scrap. Unsuccessful attempts were made in 1969 to demolish Fort DeRussy's batteries to free the prime Waikiki land for other uses.